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San Cristóbal de las Casas

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Walking through the colourful streets of San Cristóbal de las Casas, in a highland valley surrounded by hills, you are sure to pass churches, crosses, a monastery and other signs of Catholicism. But the intriguing aspect to this city, founded in 1528 by Diego de Mazariegos as a military fort, is the survival of indigenous religious beliefs, customs and traditions which thrive in the surrounding villages and co-exist alongside the westernised lifestyle practiced by city residents and visitors.

San Cristóbal is a favourite with tourists: the cobblestoned streets, red tiled roofs and colonial architecture are charming; the temperate climate is inviting; outside of the city, nearby natural attractions include caves, waterfalls and lakes amid pine and oak forests; and San Cristóbal is a gateway to the impressive Maya ruins of Palenque. The city itself has many attractions, with numerous museums, cultural centres, churches, pedestrianised shopping streets, great cafes, restaurants and bars, and markets. The appeal of San Cristóbal has encouraged many visitors to make the city their permanent home, resulting in a multicultural community and a good range of international restaurants. Tourism fuels the local economy, although the most important sector by economic output is mining, and the city is well-known for its jade extraction.